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On Guzaarish

On <i>Guzaarish</i>

Everything that’s wrong with Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s movie-making is evident in the opening scene of Guzaarish: Sophia (a deliciously zaftig Aishwarya with heavily painted face, wearing some Victorian granny’s trousseau) carefully wakes and takes care of quadriplegic Ethan (Hrithik, in the one avatar left out in Kites: Jesus on the cross). It’s a great scene – or it would have been if we didn’t have Dominique Cerejo singing Smile in the background, reminding us that sadness lurks just beneath the artfully bleached surface.

Everything that’s right with Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s movie-making can be seen in the song Udi by Sunidhi Chauhan: the normally contained Sophia takes Ethan out on the town to celebrate a rare outing and throws off her inhibitions to do it. Ethan is a man who likes to make jokes about all the sex he isn’t getting (among all the other things he can’t do any more) and needle Sophia in the process if he can; Sophia is a woman who keeps tight control of her feelings, quicker to scold than coddle. They’re surrounded by people as she taps along to the rhythm, strums an air guitar, and occasionally breaks into dazzlingly graceful steps – he never takes his eyes off her for a second and she meets them at the end of her uncharacteristic performance, making it absolutely clear that it was all for him.

It’s a searingly intimate moment for these two people. Sophia who knows every inch and working detail of his body, and Ethan who will never see more of her than what she allows him. Some movies can’t evoke that sense of amour even by making the actors take their clothes off.

And that to me is Guzaarish‘s big problem: it’s half a great movie. Because it’s made by that most tragic of beings, half a great film maker.

Personally speaking, here was a subject that pushed my buttons. It’s partly because euthanasia is a topic close to my heart for a number of reasons, not least of which is family history. But also because it addresses my greatest fear: a loss of control.

There is a scene in which Ethan proves a point to the cartoonishly unsympathetic prosecutor (Rajat Kapoor) by locking him up in a box. “I couldn’t move at all!” says the indignant lawyer, gulping in deep breaths. Well, sure. But the bigger issue was that for those terrifying 60 seconds, he was absolutely powerless.

The most vile crimes in our world are when man forcibly exerts control over his fellow man. Torture, rape, murder, home invasions, kidnappings… to find yourself at the mercy of a fellow human being, to have your agency stripped away from you, is grotesque. Ethan, of course, is not victimized by those around him – but the results of their good intentions are the same. And his life is a series of confrontations where he is forced to accept his helplessness. Tell me that doesn’t sound like a nightmare.

A less sentimental filmmaker would have let Ethan’s tragedies speak for themselves: his empty threats that turn to pleading, his fantasies of feeling the surf rush through his elegant feet, the dreams in which he soars on beams of light, the easiness with which people grant or withhold his desires, the way he’s repeatedly urged to remember what his life means to others as though that’s the reason for his existence.

These are not experiences that need particular emphasis or gilding. You’d have to be an unimaginative, insensitive moron if you can sit through a scene in which a doctor (Suhel Seth) threatens to declare his perfectly rational quadriplegic patient mentally unsound if he explores all his legal options and fail to be enraged with an overwhelming sense of WTF.

But storytelling, in all its forms, requires a certain amount of manipulation. You need to take your audience with you. Bhansali, ironically for a man who made a paean to the right to make your own decisions, is hell-bent on dragging you by the arm to a foregone conclusion.

He manages to sneak in a couple of renditions of What a Wonderful World – one by Marianne D’Cruz for a picture-perfect Nafisa Ali and one by Hrithik himself – and underscores Ethan’s utter helplessness with the help of a leaky roof and (a hilariously out-of-place) Makrand Deshpande among other things. He even throws in a languidly morose ex-girlfriend (Monikangana Dutt) who apparently lives in a mausoleum sans furniture and repentant nemesis (Ash Chandler). Worst of all is his protege Omar (Aditya Roy Kapur, lately of Action Replayy), an imbecile wrapped in a hideous pink bow – I kept hoping Sophia would take a knife to him some dark and stormy night but she never did, alas.

More mystifyingly, after making a huge hue and cry about how absolutely everybody is against his decision, the movie is at great pains to show public opinion careening on to Ethan’s side, complete with banners and slogans. “Good luck, Ethan!” smiles a reporter on TV as the judge prepares to deliver his verdict. I mean, I’m sure he appreciated it, but… you know? A little tact, lady.

When Guzaarish fires, though, it’s the hands-down weepie of the year.  “I can’t live without you,” a battered Sophia tells a sulky Ethan. It’s one of those things people say when they fall in love. And then she offers him a way out, because when you love somebody so much that you can’t live without them, you do things for them you would never dream of doing for anyone else.

PS: Because I simply couldn’t resist – here is Robert Downey Jr. (who played the lead in Chaplin) singing Smile.

What? I’m not crying. I have allergies, okay!

 
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Posted by on November 24, 2010 in Entertainment, Movies, Review, Video

 

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Masala Zindabad

Yup, it’s up and running.

We kick things off with a podcast featuring MemsaabStory – part one of a wide ranging discussion about the largely forgotten/ unknown/ nameless character actors of Hindi cinema. The feed is in the sidebar.

I swear we aren’t on meth. That’s just my poor editing skills at play. We did our best to follow the advice of all you lovely people who wrote in; I hope it worked.

Thanks for listening!

[pic]

 
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Posted by on November 23, 2010 in Entertainment, Movies, Personal

 

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The Ginger Giant of Pink City

Personally, I thought this ad and especially its behind-the-scenes was way funnier than his new show. Conan speaking Hindi is just as hilarious as you’d expect, not to mention the sheepish-half bewildered local talent he towers over. I’m a little concerned about his upcoming remake of Outsourced though.

Noooo. Don’t do it, Coco!

 
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Posted by on November 16, 2010 in Celebrity, Entertainment, Newsmakers, Television, Video

 

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Action Replayy: Q & A

<i>Action Replayy</i>: Q & A

Q. What is Action Replay?
A. British for “instant replay”; mostly used in the context of sports.

Q. No, no, the movie starring Akshay Kumar and Aishwarya Rai.
A. Oh, you mean Action Replayy.

Q. Yes, excuse me: Action Replayy. Does that extra Y mean something?
A. They can’t spell?

Q. You’re going to be difficult about this, aren’t you? I can tell already.
A. Sorry. Action Replayy is a movie directed by Vipul Amrutlal Shah (Namastey London, London Dreams) about Bunty (Aditya Roy Kapur), a commitment-phobe, who hops a ride back in time to fix his parents’ non-existent love story so they don’t end up unhappily married years later.

Q. And this takes place in London?
A. No, Mumbai.

Q. Oh. Well, that sounds sweet.
A. Eh.

Q. Come on! The kid wants to save his parents’ marriage!
A. Right after he said he doesn’t believe in the institution and wished that his parents had never got together. Not that I blame him. If you had two miserable people like Kishen (Akshay Kumar) and Mala (Aishwarya Rai) as the shining example of the institution in front of you, you wouldn’t be all that eager either.

Q. Why do they hate each other?
A. She’s a bitch and he’s a loser.

Q. O.o
A. Fine. She wanted him to pay attention to her but he was too busy with his work, so she tried to fill in the emptiness by buying things. A lot of things. About 9 crore plus change worth of things that must be extremely dodgy going by one example he carries around in the car with him. As for him, he thinks she’s always hated him and never wanted to marry him, might even have been in love with another man, except they were forced into marriage by their parents.

Q. That’s terrible.
A. Right. But! Conveniently for Bunty, his girlfriend’s grandfather Anthony Gonsalves (Randhir Kapoor) just built a time machine in their drawing room –

Q. Excuse me?
A. Built a time machine in his drawing room. At least, I think it’s his drawing room. I’m pretty sure I noticed a table lamp. Don’t worry, though, it’s not important – it’s one of those science-y things that you note in the “Oh Yeah, And This Happened. Continuity!” column. So he hijacks the thing and runs off into the sky with it and lands in Bombay 30 years ago. Where he finds out the awful truth about his parents.

Q. Which is?
A. She’s a bitch and he’s a loser.

Q. o.O
A. It’s true! She’s the terror of the neighborhood because she has no father and she’s trying to be the man of the house while he’s the neighborhood punching bag because he has no mother and he’s trying to be the woman of the house.

Q. Is this funny?
A. Occasionally? It’s the monstrous love child of that other movie made by illiterates, Singh is Kinng, and one of the director’s earlier efforts, Waqt: The Race Against Time, except this one is more of a movie rather than a collection of comedy skits and doesn’t have extended death scenes surrounded by plush toys. It must have helped to have Back to the Future as their Plot Guide for Dummiez. Also, they swapped in The Original Salman Girlfriend instead of The Girlfriend Doll, so she comes equipped with extra features like Be Convincingly Mean and Dance in a Variety of Styles. Thus Mala is both in spades: truly unpleasant and very hot. And there are weird scenes in which Bunty, the son, encourages his future father to think of his future mother as a potential hate-fuck.

Q. Sounds like an interesting movie.
A. It has its moments and most of them are unintentional.

Q. But you’re not offended by it.
A. I suspect I would have been if it wasn’t a variation on a very well worn theme: For True Happiness in the Indian Home, A Woman Needs to Know Her Place and A Man is the Only One Who Can Show It to Her. I mean, Mala+Kishen v.1.0 might have been textbook examples right out of Psychology 101 but there was a sense of real drama there, which just got reduced to Bollywood Characterization 101 via time travel. At a certain point, you just shrug and move on.

Q. Blah blah blah. Does it bring the pretty?
A. Sure. Well, Aishwarya does. The way she does.

Q. Sold!
A. I thought so.

 
14 Comments

Posted by on November 8, 2010 in Entertainment, Movies, Review, Video

 

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Keep Raising Hope

Keep <i>Raising Hope</i>

If they’d kept the original title of the show – Keep Hope Alive – I would have known immediately that Raising Hope is my kind of show. As it was, it took me a little while to get around to watching this sitcom from Greg Garcia (My Name is Earl) about a clueless young man battling the odds to raise his little baby girl.

The Chances, Burt (Garret Dillahunt) and Virginia (Martha Plimpton) have big dreams: lots of money, yachts, fancy fixtures, rich people’s toys. Someday they’re going to live in an enormous mansion with a pool. In the meantime, however, while waiting for that lottery to chime in the happy times, they clean enormous mansions and pools for a living wage. And they live with Virginia’s grandmother, known as Maw Maw (Cloris Leachman), whose dementia prevents her from kicking them all out of her home, which they’ve sort of unofficially occupied for years now.

Burt and Virginia have a son Jimmy (Lucas Neff), born when they were both in their teens, and one day in the middle of cleaning a pool, he has an epiphany. Which leads, in turn, to a fateful rescue mission where he saves a pretty young girl from an older man. Her name is Lucy (Bijou Phillips) and they promptly have mad, unprotected sex in the backseat of his gross van. Things are great! For a moment it looks like Jimmy was right – his life is meant for better things than cleaning a pool. Too bad Lucy’s a mad serial killer.

However, her execution next year leaves a surprise for him: Princess Beyonce, his daughter. Everyone advises him to give the baby up for adoption but Jimmy is adamant. He’s going to raise Princess Beyonce Hope himself. Well, himself with the help of his parents, his friends and whoever else he can rope into it.

Like that really cute, quirky girl Sabrina (Shannon Woodward) who works at the local supermarket while writing stories full of words he hasn’t ever heard before. She might have a boyfriend, a college boy whose father’s pool the Chances clean, and Jimmy did once date her cousin, the girl with one dead tooth, but hey! Things can happen, right?

Right.

In the wrong hands, Raising Hope could have dwindled into one long “Ha Ha, Look at These Fucking Ignorant Poor People” joke. Thankfully, it’s a long way from that. It is, however, a show that isn’t afraid to tackle uncomfortable subjects with the lightest of touches.

For instance, serial killer Lucy chooses to have Princess Beyonce because she’s pro-life – not the baby’s but her own. Since she’s pregnant, her execution is delayed till Hope is 6 months old. “Don’t worry, they’ll never execute the mother of a 6 month old baby,” she assures Jimmy. Oh, but they will. Sanctity of life only extends thus far and no further, you see.

Similarly, you see the family making choices – daycare for Hope or smokes for Grandma Virginia? – that seem tiny and ridiculous unless you’ve actually lived the experience of existing paycheck to paycheck. And that still doesn’t stop it from being hilarious. It’s also proved capable of handling the tricky subject of teen parenting, specifically its aftermath, as Virginia and Burt explain their horrifyingly bad decisions to their grown up son who is now a father himself.

The real heart of the show, as far as I’m concerned, are the moments in which Jimmy learns compassion and forgives his parents one bizarre action at a time as he slowly becomes more and more of a real father rather than a kid who decided fatherhood was his new mission in life. Martha Plimpton, in particular, just kills those scenes as she takes Jimmy’s childhood memories and reintroduces them to him in a newly adult context.

Baby Hope is cute but really just incidental to the whole process of what goes into raising a family.

 
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Posted by on November 5, 2010 in Entertainment, Review, Television, Video

 

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Rakhi Sawant for Prime Minister

Although the time on her clock reads well into the 16th minute, Rakhi Sawant is still going places – like the unfamiliar pages of Filmfare. The interview, a rare one from a magazine devoted to its upscale Not-Your-Mummyji‘s-Gossip-Rag brand, starts off with Rakhi flipping out at the sight of the Louis Vuitton outfit and Ferragamo shoes the team has arranged for her photoshoot.

Not in the way they were expecting though:

“Which godown have you picked up these chindis (rags) from? There is no red, green, blue, purple, no glitter. My fans will think I’ve become a bhikhari (beggar) if I were to wear such clothes.”

I think I’m supposed to laugh at her, but honestly, I’m laughing at the magazine because they just got served. Whatever her faults, Rakhi clearly isn’t a brand-fucker. Eventually they seem to have got her into an oversized Diesel tee, and a Just Cavalli top paired with shorts from Mango. Couldn’t make her let go of her pancake though. One look and I already know this is going to be the best interview Filmfare has landed in ages.

Sure enough, she talks a little about hosting her version of Judge Judy, which seems to be more Jerry Springer going by the promos, and then launches into talk of how she’s let Jesus take the wheel:

Being an item girl doesn’t mean I dance around all the time clad in a ghagra-choli. I am a good human being, a God-fearing girl. Before taking up any work, I take permission from Jesus. If it requires me to expose, I refuse it. Like I refused “Meethi Chhoori” and Ram Gopal Varma’s “Phoonk 2” because I didn’t want to expose or be part of a horror film.

God hates slags! Just in case you didn’t know. Various other meditations follow: she’s come to realize she’s a heavenly alien “here on a transit visa” after she read the Bible. Other things the Bible taught her –

  • don’t be a bitch
  • pay taxes to God (10% flat rate)
  • it’s better to be God’s kid than a star kid. Who’re all miserable failures anyway (especially that loser Hrithik Roshan who needs his daddy to make him movies)
  • be nice to your mom and she will ask for less money
  • don’t have “dirty sex” with drugs and booze when all you need is Viagra – “alcohol is Satan’s mouthwash”
  • the Devil is behind all the hate that comes her way
  • she’s now a national icon on the level of Amitabh Bachchan
  • Shahrukh Khan’s decidedly un-Christian antics at awards shows is proof that the world is biased towards educated elites.

Well, really. Who could argue with any of that? My head throbs just thinking of it.

Q. What about your love life now?
A. I am madly in love. I am married. Jesus is my husband.

Just call her Fraulein Maria. Jesus is her Captain but if some nice, clean-living teetotaler with perhaps no money but definitely much piety were to cross her path, she’d marry him. Not that she really needs him because, let’s face it, Jesus is a tough act to follow.

In fact, she’s writing a show about the life of Jesus Christ – she’s got about 50 episodes written already – but not a single channel will put it on because they’re all temples of sin, devoted to carnality and destined for Hell. And furthermore, if Ekta Kapoor wants the honor of working with her on this project, which might save souls unlike her usual sinful stuff, she can just approach Rakhi herself!

After all, is God visiting Ekta in her dreams to advice her about the sins of plastic surgery? Nope! That would be Rakhi Sawant, thank you very much. Who is now much more famous than this Mallika Sherawat person (lurking sadly in the pages of this very issue, saying outdated things like: “Obama is a stud!” Yawn.) who is only known for taking her clothes off.

Q. Where do you see yourself after five years?
A. I see myself in Lok Sabha as a clean politician. Without wearing khadi, I’m doing a lot of social work. But you also need power to make a difference. However, everyone wants me nanga (nude) on screen. But I won’t wear a bikini or short dresses. I’m not dying to do films, I’m doing reality shows.

Well, of course! Why didn’t any of us see this coming? Get ready for Prime Minister Rakhi Sawant in 2020. She’ll be the one in a spaghetti strap handloom saree at the United Nations General Assembly, mediating a Middle East intervention where the Israelis and the Palestinians get to bitchslap their differences out on live camera. Eventually, she’ll step in and make peace based on the hard-won experiences of her tragic life, after which they will all dance together to the tune of a Bollywood item number.

Oh, you scoff now but you’ll remember this post one day.

In other news, if you hear blood has started pouring out of the eyes of a Virgin Mary near you, please don’t be alarmed. Just hand her a hanky. It’s not every day a woman gets Rakhi Sawant for a daughter-in-law.

 
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Posted by on November 2, 2010 in Celebrity, Entertainment, Newsmakers, Video

 

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Before RED

Before <i>RED</i>

The best thing about the internet is that some amazing recommendations can come from the unlikeliest places, including random message boards. For instance, I recently found out that long before they made RED, which stands for Retired Extremely Dangerous in the 2010 movie of the graphic novel starring Bruce Willis, Helen Mirren, John Malkovich, Morgan Freeman and Brian Cox as a quintet of international intelligence old-timers who take on a high-level conspiracy that threatens their lives, there was Hopscotch (1980).

Adapted from the novel of the same name by Brian Garfield, Hopscotch is about CIA operative Miles Kendig (Walter Matthau) who is REPRetired Extremely Pissed.

It all starts in Berlin, where Kendig, one of those older men in grey whom nobody notices, walks into a beer garden and laconically points out young spies to West German intelligence officers while conducting what appears to be an aria in his head. He leaves the main man alone – that is Yaskov (Herbert Lom), head of the KGB, well-known to Kendig for the past 20 years – so he can confront him alone in the street, remind him gently of West Germany’s great dislike of Soviet spies, and retrieve the sensitive information before sending him on his way.

Yaskov tells Kendig that he could make a run for it. As the thought of the two of them chasing each other all over Berlin comes to Kendig’s mind, he shakes his head: “We’d look like Laurel and Hardy!” he says in disgust. Yaskov agrees, hands it over and lives to fight another day.

Unfortunately for Kendig, things don’t go over as smoothly Stateside where his new boss Myerson (Ned Beatty) is the result of a regrettable internal promotion from the “Department of Dirty Tricks”. Clearly, they frowned at showing civility to a Soviet agent at the DDT, because Myerson turns Kendig into a glorified file clerk awaiting retirement for letting Yaskov go instead of bringing him in.

Or rather, Myerson tries. Kendig walks out of Myerson’s office, proudly decorated with photos of him doing manly things like shoot and fish as well shaking hands with Nixon, and coolly destroys his CIA file, hops on a flight to Salzburg, and arrives just in time to take part in a mysterious, extended conversation about the intricacies of wine with a foreign lady. This is Isobel (Glenda Jackson), a sort-of-former lover and definitely-former agent  who quit to marry well and is now a well-off widow with a fearsome German Shepherd for a companion.

Isobel knows Kendig’s unexpected visit can’t be a good sign. But even she’s surprised when she finds out Meyerson, a little man with an unpleasant expression who decorates his office with pictures of him shaking hands with Nixon, catching fish, and shooting the camera while cautioning his wife against renting their vacation home out to filthy Democrats, is now his boss:

“See-you-next-Tuesday Meyerson?” she asks.

Kendig isn’t quite sure what he’s supposed to do now that he’s out of a job (other than listen to all the opera he wants) but a visit of commiseration from Yaskov gives him an idea – he’s going to write his memoirs! Detailing every last, horrifying, gut-wrenching, underhanded operation he’s been involved with over the past 20 years. Of course, this comes with a side effect of possible assassination as Isobel points out (which leads him to make this face), so he decides to send it out, one chapter at a time, to all the major intelligence agencies of the world.

Myerson is incensed enough to launch a manhunt. Especially since the book is mainly interested in exposing his shortcomings, in more ways than one. “Hello, you short person,” Kendig says cheerfully to a photo of Meyerson before he starts on another chapter. “Pay attention, shorty!”

As the CIA and the KGB (Kendig is spilling quite a bit about them as well and Yaskov is naturally interested in the CIA material, recognizing a valuable source of information if only he can get his hands on him) search for him, much to the amusement of the rest of the world, Kendig has found a nice little hideaway in Myerson’s Democrat-free vacation home. One hilarious (seriously!) bout of bad Southern accents later, the local chapter of the FBI is trying to shoot him out.

“I now know what the FBI stands for,” Myerson says bitterly as his beautiful, expensive house goes up in smoke along with his quarry. “Fucking Ballbusting Imbeciles!”

With Matthau singing The Barber of Seville at the Spanish border, a re-engineered Belgian Tiger Moth that glides in a graceful ballet around an infuriated Myerson, dumb sidekicks, loyal attack dogs, and the always-delightful Sam Waterston as Kendig’s protege-cum-replacement, it’s leagues removed from the kind of spy movies we see today. Myerson clearly won the war as far as pop culture is concerned.

But it’s also the reason why Hopscotch is absolutely ageless. And now available on Criterion. So you really have no excuse.

 
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Posted by on October 31, 2010 in Books, Entertainment, Movies, Review, Video

 

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Player Got Plaid

Dressed to Kill (My Eyes! My Eyes!)

You know how sometimes you wear something just a teensy bit suspect, but then someone actually compliments you on it? And this just builds up in your head until you start fancying yourself quite a bit when you look in the mirror with that thing on?

For example, there was that time when I read round faces look better with hanks of hair hanging down the sides. Of course, the glossy magazine put it better than that, as did the models they featured in it, but there was a whole year in my teens when I’d walk around with overgrown bangs lying limply on either side of my face. Why? Because a second cousin my age paid us a visit the first time I tried it out and admired my new “look”. On the basis of that one throwaway comment, cocker spaniels became my fashion inspiration.

Eventually, thank heaven, I outgrew it. I bought myself a comb and learned to use it without my mother nagging me into it. And I also decided never to trust other people’s opinions over that of my mirror.

Poor old Akshay Kumar, however, seems to be descending deeper and deeper into denial. I think I began to note his plaid obsession around the time Chandini Chowk to China was released – I mean, how could you not notice something like this:

Truly, Madly, Fugly, Made for Each Other.

But after careful research (about 5 minutes worth) it seems to have been a bad habit he picked up on the sets of that other masterpiece Tashan.

"OK! OK! I'm sorry! I LOVE your shirt!"

And soon, he couldn’t keep it from spreading like a malignant virus onto his non-promotional life.

My Boobs Want to Get Far Away From This Boob

Twinkle and her magnificent cleavage deserve so much better! And just when I thought he was making an effort to manage his addiction, like so:

Not Without My Plaid

…he goes and films this episode of perhaps the most boring cooking show on TV – in a three-piece plaid suit with a windowpane pattern. I kid you not.

Oh, honey. Leave the fashion to the better half, yes? Ask her to buy you a nice subtle jacket you can wear with your scandalous jeans or something.

 
18 Comments

Posted by on October 30, 2010 in Celebrity, Entertainment, Video

 

Rakht Charitra: Suckered Again

<i>Rakht Charitra</i>: Suckered Again

Here’s a sentence I type less and less often as the years go by: I was truly excited to watch Ram Gopal Varma’s new movie. A fictional account of the blood-soaked real life of Andhra Pradesh politician Paritala Ravi, Rakht Charitra sounded interesting and right up RGV’s alley. Gore, politics, revenge, it had to be a knock out of the RGV park.

Well, I don’t know which angel RGV decided to piss off by taking a dump in its bed, but Rakht Charitra is terrible. Not in a lights come on and you look over at your date and immediately apologize for picking this movie of all the tens available kind of way, but in a shoulders slumped in defeat as you slowly huddle into your miserable seat and sadly shake your head way.

Rakht Charitra is an orgy of all the hacky bits of filmmaking that have become the RGV hallmark of late, from mysterious/dizzying camera angles to boomingly obvious background scores to attention-destroying close ups of every other actor’s nostrils… now with the added benefit of the worst narrator ever employed by a movie. Bar none. His one direction seems to have been: “Pretend every word you speak is a breech baby to which you’re giving birth.”

And what words they are! After introducing us to the town of Anandpur, the kind of skeevy, dusty, violence-strewn place that we’ve now come to expect of our rural interiors at the cinema, our narrator helpfully informs us in his over-enunciated, weirdly accented manner that blood is the accepted way to settle things here – especially when it’s a matter of ego, women or privilege. And therefore, he continues, the history of Anandpur is a history of blood. A rakht charitra in fact! So clever.

Apparently RGV only expected idiots to come watch his movie (and yes, I feel like one now, thanks for asking!) because this distressing pattern doesn’t end after the introduction. Instead, the narrator regularly puts in an appearance to thunderously explain a scene, after which you see the scene take place.

  • “The snake is coming out of his lair!” – the villain is about to leave his house.
  • “She didn’t know this then but he had set out on a long journey.” – and our hero hops on a scooter and rushes off to his faraway, troubled homeland.
  • “His ego was hurt by X event so he asked his assistant who was behind this deed.” – three guesses what happens next.

The sad part about all of this, the reason I’m so viciously disappointed, is because there’s actually a good movie hidden somewhere in the middle of this mess, performed by actors who’re pretty good at their jobs.

I feel especially bad for Vivek Oberoi, a man on the Ben Affleck road to redemption, who turns in a what I suspect was a fine performance if only I could penetrate that cacophony of tricks RGV unloads on top of it. There was his (unintentionally) hilarious entry scene, for instance, wherein he exudes menace, riding a Bajaj scooter and opening the unoffending gate of a suburban house in a nice neighborhood so he can ask for his girlfriend’s hand in marriage. The one standout scene, before it succumbed to the everpresent trowel-full of obvious ham, comes late into the film when he stands before the pawn he’s just utilized to his best advantage, standing bathed in the golden glow of the sun, a well-barbered young man in shining white, all the better to appeal to public opinion.

I try really hard to go with the movie presented in front of me, rather than the movie I think ought to exist in its place, but every so often I come across one that is the equivalent of an old friend who greets me by slapping a dead fish in my face. It gets rather difficult to look past the fish to the friend standing beyond. I honestly feel RGV is a man with a lot of interesting, creative ideas who, in the wise words of Tim Gunn, doesn’t know how to edit. So he just sticks everything in there.

Anysmellydeadfish, the movie begins with an easily manipulated politician called Narasimha Reddy whose righteous friendship with his lower caste protege Veer Bhadra lasts all of two watered-down Scotches after it is given the evil eye by a painfully obvious manipulator called Nagamani Reddy (Kota Srinivasa Rao). The fallout results in a simmering caste war that promises to play out at the local elections, threatening to unseat the Reddys from their power base. Nagamani, with Narasimha’s blessing, then takes his grudge just that teensy envelope-pushing bit too far and assassinates Veer Bhadra.

His mantle of idealism thus falls on elder son Shankar (Sushant Singh), who carries it with grief, pride and a healthy dose of guerrilla warfare. This obviously gets him murdered in short order as well, leaving just Pratap (Vivek Oberoi) to carry out the family mission: kill all those who wronged their family and, time and energy permitting, society as a whole.

Unfortunately, once Narasimha and Nagamani have been despatched, with a modicum of elan I might add, Pratap finds his troubles aren’t over. Now Pratap is a wanted terrorist and Nagamani has left behind his infamous son Bukka (Abhimanyu Singh), who “changed the definition of vile” the ever-knowledgeable narrator informs us over a montage of said Bukka being suitably changing the definition of vile. Sigh.

Happily for Pratap, Bukka is an equal opportunity son-of-a-bitch and has succeeded in pissing off Shivaji Rao (Shatrughan Sinha), a carpet-bagging movie star turned politician, whom he hilariously scares away from Anandpur with a few well placed bombs. Outraged that he, the man who regularly beat up entire armies single-handedly on the big screen, was forced to turn tail and run offscreen, Shivaji wants to know: “How can a demon like Bukka exist in a democracy?”

“What do you mean how?” asks his befuddled assistant. “He exists therefore he is.”

I chuckled far more heartily than this little sally deserved but at a certain point, you take your joy where you can get it.

Thus, Shivaji and Pratap join forces – Pratap’s no dummy after all, and he’s powerfully attracted to Shivaji, the most Machiavellian figure he’s ever met, and his amazing ideas like keeping Pratap out of jail by turning him into a politician so he can murder all he wants while staying above the law. Oh, Nagamani, if only you and your pitiful tumblers of Scotch were alive to watch and learn, abashed, the art of skillful manipulation from a man who prefers to stroke the heads of gold tigers than rapey sons.

As the problem of Bukka is solved, with more helpful exposition from the narrator, Pratap sets about his business, cleaning town and taking names. In between all this is an honest cop (Ashwini Kalsekar) who shows up to remind you that honesty never pays, especially in an RGV movie; and various wives, widows, sisters, hookers, pillion-riders, billboard models and girlfriends, all of them sad, desperate and sinned against, except for Nandini (Radhika Apte). Pratap’s college sweetheart turned wife, she is the sort of fool who calmly listens to her beloved telling her he’s indeed a much-discussed murderer who plans to murder again and decides that’s just what she’s looking for in the father of her children. Off she goes to walk silently by his side in the forest and give meaningful looks in the background. She’ll get hers, I guess.

In the sequel! Wherein Pratap will be presented with his butcher’s bill. But apart from the little “scenes from our next movie” they tacked on to the end of this one, I have no idea what that will look like because here’s a sentence I will never use again: I am truly excited to watch Ram Gopal Varma’s new movie.

 
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Posted by on October 25, 2010 in Entertainment, Movies, Review, Video

 

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Audrey Day

Audrey Day

All I want this weekend is some charmth to warm my soul. And few actors are as charming as Audrey Hepburn, so she’s my preferred company today. Just familiar stuff, so I can wallow in the details without worrying about surprises and other nasty things.  Plus, she must hold some kind of record for acting in the most number of movies set in Paris and I could definitely do with some Parisian romance this week.

A few favorites amongst some of her less-discussed movies:

1. How to Steal a Million

The movie that made me fall in love with Peter O’Toole despite my father’s best efforts to traumatize me as a child with repeated viewings of Lawrence of Arabia.

It’s really an amusing trifle but as a caper it hits just the right spot – O’Toole is adorable as the bemused would-be art thief shanghaied into helping a family of accomplished forgers thanks to the go-getter daughter of the house. It has the kind of 60s silliness that makes that whole era such fun: hi-tech gadgets and yummy fashion and amazing cars. And smoking hot chemistry that doesn’t require anyone to get naked.

Well, maybe a little naked but it takes place discreetly offscreen.

2. Robin and Marian

A look at the lives of glorious heroes long after the cheers have faded into memory, this m0vie was written by James Goldman who also wrote The Lion in Winter and They Might be Giants (all you Sherlock fans might want to check it out). For this reason alone, it has long been on my list but it took Flynn Week to bring it back up.

And it certainly doesn’t disappoint. It’s not really “Robin Hood” except in name but works really well as a movie about young men who dedicate their lives to a higher cause, the young women they leave behind, and what happens when life catches up with them.

3. Two for the Road

I’ll never forget the very first time I saw this movie thanks to that one scene in which Audrey and Albert Finney discuss the silence of married people at restaurants. It’s the kind of writing that comes back to you at unexpected moments; the simple honesty of little things that you never quite analyze until someone points it out to you and then it remains bound to your memory of that person forever.

This is not the movie for you if you’re looking for the “classic” Audrey Hepburn experience with the wide eyes, the chic clothes and the ladylike language – you’d have to choose director Stanley Donen’s two other, more famous, collaborations with Audrey for that fix (Funny Face, Charade).

An examination of a couple’s marriage over a decade as they go on various road trips, I often wonder how it would have played if Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton starred in it… and I mean that as a compliment.

4. Paris – When it Sizzles

Look at that trailer! Don’t you want to see it? It’s like this movie was made to make all writers of fanfic green with jealousy – will your insane (-ly sexy!) storylines ever be acted out by anyone even half as awesome as Audrey Hepburn and William Holden? I think not!

I have to say, analytically speaking, you end up wondering if this movie about a hard partyin’ screenwriter forced to submit the allegedly phenomenal script he’s been working on in gay Paree and the assistant he finds to help him crank it out in time was more of a docudrama than fiction. There’s a distinctly cobbled together feel to the whole enterprise. But who wants to speak analytically? It sounds like a painful medical condition! Talking about medical conditions, these two ought to do something about this fatal attraction their mouths have for each other.

5. Love in the Afternoon

This movie was an eye-roller even when it came out, but if you have a thing for Autumn-Spring romances – and much as it pains me, I must out myself here – then this absolutely charming. It’s not as sweet as Sabrina but Gary Cooper works much better than Humphrey Bogart.

And as hilarious (-ly sexist) as that whole “connoisseur of women” stuff sounds in the trailer, it’s even more funny in the movie as you watch Cooper drip charm in a tuxedo tailored for Cary Grant. But it kind of works too – you buy him as the great big, rough American millionaire who likes his dames with exotic accents. There’s a certain hard-living hint of sleaze about him that’s very unusual for roles of this kind. And Audrey is, of course, utterly delicious and extremely young.

It’s like chicken soup for my heart.

 
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Posted by on October 22, 2010 in Celebrity, Entertainment, Movies, Review, Video

 

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